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30 Murders by Firearm in England 2012 (equiv. 164), vs. 8,855 in US

By Juan Cole

The mentally imbalanced individual who hunted down UC Santa Barbara students and knifed three and shot 6 of them to death, wounding with gunfire 7 more, on Saturday, used a semi-automatic handgun. The most popular such weapon is a Glock. It is not an automatic weapon, meaning you have to squeeze the trigger each time to fire. But it is much easier to get off many shots one after another than in the case of a traditional pistol. The magazine for the Glock 17 has 17 rounds; one can get a high capacity magazine of 33 rounds. High capacity magazines and some semi-automatic weapons were banned in the Clinton era. But the gun manufacturers have bought Congress, so that that ban could no longer be implemented.

Let us not pretend that this is about hunters and hunting, folks. Anyone who shoots deer with a Glock should be denied sex the rest of their lives the way the Santa Barbara shooter complained he was. Having a hand gun in the house also does not make anyone safer; family members shoot each other with them or commit suicide with them when temporarily depressed; and burglars wrestle them away and shoot the owners with their own weapon, or the owners end up being charged with murder for shooting an unarmed burglar. Plus people are not well. I figure at least 20 percent of the US population has mood disorders or other mental problems such that you really wouldn’t want to see a gun in their hands. Nor is it about the actual, historical, 2nd Amendment. Our current legislative program in the US is “a semi-automatic high capacity weapon in the hands of every mentally unstable person.” But since Congress is also determined to pump 50 billion metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere in the next decade, which will pretty much sink us, the mania about everyone having guns is not the most dangerous hysteria currently gripping our country.

The United States continues to be peculiar in handing out powerful magazine-fed firearms to almost anyone who wants one and not requiringbackground checks on private purchases even if these are made at gun shows. 80% of civilian-owned firearms world-wide are in the US, and only Yemen vaguely competes with us for rates of firearm ownership; Yemen is a violent mess with Shiite insurgencies, al-Qaeda taking over cities from time to time, tribal feuding, southern separatism and US drone strikes. And even it has fewer guns per person than the USA.

It has gotten to the point where the increasing epidemic of mass shootings now threatens the US military, the most powerful military in the world.

The US is downright weird compared to civilized Western Europe orAustralia (which enacted gun control after a mass shooting in 1996 and there have been no further such incidents).

Number of Murders by Firearms, US, 2012: 8,855

Percentage of all Murders that were committed by firearms in US: 69.3

Suicides in US 2011: 38,285

Gun Suicides in US, 2011: 19,766

Number of Murders by firearms, England and Wales, 2012-2013: 30
(equivalent to 164 US murders).

Percentage of all murders in England and Wales that were committed by firearm: 5.4 percent.

Number of suicides in England and Wales, 2011: 4871 (equivalent to about 25,818 in US or 31% lower)

Number of suicides by Firearam in England and Wales, 2011: 84

For more on murder by firearms in Britain, see the BBC.

The US has the highest gun ownership in the world and the highest murder rate in the developed world.

There is some correlation between high rates of gun ownership and high rates of violent crime in general, globally (and also if you compare state by state inside the US):

h/t Christopher Majka

In the case of Britain, firearms murders are 53 times fewer than in the US per capita. [Don’t bother with flawed citations of Switzerland or Israel, where most citizens are the equivalent of military reservists.]

Do hunters really need semi-automatic AR-15 assault weapons? Is that how they roll in deer season? The US public doesn’t think so.


Related video:

AFP: “Guns in the US”

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Narendra Modi victory would bode ill for India, say Rushdie and Kapoor

Salman Rushdie and Anish Kapoor among artists and academics to sign letter to the Guardian to express ‘acute worry‘ at Hindu nationalist‘s expected victory in general election
Narendra Modi

Novelist Salman Rushdie and the sculptor Anish Kapoor are among signatories of a letter expressing ‘acute worry’ at the prospect of Narendra Modi (above) becoming the country’s prime minister. Photograph: Divyakant Solanki/EPA

More than a dozen of India‘s most respected artists and academics – including the novelist Salman Rushdie and the sculptor Anish Kapoor – have written to the Guardian to express their “acute worry” at the prospect of Narendra Modi, the controversial Hindu nationalist politician, becoming the country’s prime minister.

Modi, the candidate of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is currently leading all opinion surveys and many analysts believe he is assured of victory when results of the six-week phased poll are announced next month.

Tens of millions of Indians voted on Thursday in Delhi, the capital, and in volatile areas in the centre and east of the country where Maoist insurgents are active. Turnout has so far been high in one of the most bitterly fought elections for many decades. The Congress party, in power since 2004, currently appears headed for a historic defeat.

The letter to the Guardian, also signed by British lawyers, activists and three members of parliament, says that Modi becoming prime minister would “bode ill for India‘s future as a country that cherishes the ideals of inclusion and protection for all its peoples and communities”.

Modi’s supporters, who include many within India’s business community, see the 63-year-old politician as a decisive, honest and effective administrator who will reinvigorate India’s faltering economic development. Critics say he is a religious hardliner with authoritarian instincts who has adopted a moderate image to win power.

“The underlying worry is that Modi will move to a more and more Hindu state and that is a worry many people share and is not particular to those who signed the letter,” said Kapoor, who was born and brought up in India and now lives in London.

“The India I grew up in took a secular, pluralist view. The other [India] is partisan … Here is someone who knows how to galvanise the mythological part of our Indian psyche with potentially terrifying consequences,” he said.

The letter highlights “the role played by the Modi government in the horrifying events that took place in [the western state of] Gujarat in 2002.”

Modi was chief minister of Gujarat when a fire broke out on a train carrying Hindu pilgrims, killing 59 people. The incident, blamed on local Muslims, sparked widespread rioting across the state in one of the worst outbreaks of sectarian violence in India for decades. Government ministers later told parliament around 1,000 people, largely Muslims, had been murdered by mobs. The dead included three British nationals.

Modi has been accused of failing to stop the violence and even encouraging rioters. He has denied the charges and a series of inquiries have found insufficient evidence to substantiate the accusations against him. One of Modi’s close aides has however been convicted along with members of hardline Hindu nationalist groups.

The letter to the Guardian says Modi has repeatedly refused to “accept responsibility or render an apology.”

“Such a failure of moral character and political ethics … is incompatible with India’s secular constitution, which, …. is founded on pluralist principles,” it reads.

Senior officials of the BJP reacted angrily to the letter, with one saying the signatories were “people of profoundly leftist inclination who have been critics of the BJP since day one”.

“These comments are prejudiced, biased and some of these people have entertained a pathological hatred towards Mr Modi for years. The BJP has grown in spite of their opposition for so many years and the left has gone down in spite of their support because the people of India trust in Mr Modi and the BJP to save India from all ills that India is suffering,” said Ravi Shankar Prasad, deputy leader of the party.

Prasad said that despite a history of sectarian conflicts there had been no riots in Gujarat since 2002 while Muslims in the state had “the highest rate of growth in the country.”

“In a democracy, the people of India will decide. The motto of the BJP is “India First” and Mr Modi has said many times he represents all India’s communities and people,” Prasad said.

Other signatories of the letter include eminent Indian left-wing economist Prabhat Patnaik, artists Dayanita Singh and Vivan Sundaram, art historian Geeta Kapur and Canada-based film maker Deepa Mehta who recently collaborated with Rushdie on a film version of his novel Midnight’s Children.

Rushdie was born in India’s commercial capital Mumbai but now lives in the US. Sale of copies of his controversial 1988 book The Satanic Verses is still forbidden in India. In 2012, an appearance at the Jaipur literary festival was cancelled after protests from Indian Muslim groups. The incident provoked fears for free speech in India and some criticism of the government.

Some in India fear a new and tougher cultural climate should the BJP take power, though senior officials have told the Guardian that such claims are scaremongering. The BJP has its origins in a broad movement which includes groups with a past record of attacking some of the country’s most eminent artists. Many were worried by the recent withdrawal by publishers Penguin of a book on Hinduism after legal challenges by rightwing organisations.

The British government ended a boycott of Modi by senior diplomats in 2012. The European Union and US have now ended their own boycotts, though a ban on entry to the US remains.

“I was very sad to see British parliamentarians extend an offer to Modi for him to talk [to parliament], and the Indian business community in the UK bend over backwards,” said Kapoor, who has been knighted in the UK and been awarded the Padma Bushan, one of India’s highest civilian honours.

Chetan Bhatt, a professor of sociology at the London School of Economics and a signatory of the letter, told the Guardian: “Modi perfectly embodies a callous, dangerous and authoritarian ideology that stands opposed to genuine liberal, democratic and secular values that founded the modern state of India.”

Others, such as the economist Patnaik, said they were worried by the support of major businesses for Modi. Jayati Ghosh, another respected leftwing economist and signatory to the letter said “corporate India has decided they want this man” to win a “watershed election”.

But Modi does appear to have won the support of large numbers of Indian voters, particularly among young people facing tough battles for good jobs.

“He will get things moving again,” said Rakesh Kumar, a 24-year-old taxi driver, shortly after voting in south Delhi on Thursday. “He can cut through all the problems like a knife. That is what we need here.”


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Controversy erupts in Britain’s parliament complex over Modi


London, Feb 27, 2014, PTI:

A debate on BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi‘s controversial past sparked a row at a meeting within Britain’s parliament complex.

Human rights groups and organisers of ‘Narendra Modi and the Rise of Hindu Fascism’ at a committee room in the Parliament building yesterday claimed they had been subjected to intense pressure and death threats from Hindu right-wing groups in the UK to cancel the debate.

“This meeting has been held under extremely difficult conditions, in the face of death threats. It just highlights the inability of Narendra Modi’s supporters to tolerate anything other than their narrative and attempts to suppress free speech,” said Chetan Bhatt, director of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights at the London School of Economics (LSE).

Bhatt traced Modi’s RSS roots during the meeting leading up to his role as chief minister of Gujarat during the 2002 riots. “The human rights issues are very serious and are not going to go away, no matter what happens in the Indian elections,” he added.

The meeting was also addressed by Yusuf Dawood, a British Gujarati who lost two of his brothers in the 2002 riots and filed a civil case against Modi for genocide and crimes against humanity back in 2004. “We can’t just brush the facts of what happened under the carpet. It is important that the truth remains the truth,” he said.

Members of the Hindu Forum of Britain and other UK-based Hindu groups present at the event expressed their discontent with the proceedings and claimed Modi was being unfairly accused and attacked. A small group of rabble-rousers had to be eventually escorted out of the room, with one member screaming “Modi will be PM of India“.

The meeting received the backing of a number of British parliamentarians, led by Labour MP John McDonnell, as well as celebrated Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor.”We are in a moment of great danger and your call to our sense of justice is much needed,” Kapoor said in his message read out at the event.

The event also marked the launch of ‘Narendra Modi Exposed: Challenging the Myths Surrounding the BJP’s Prime Ministerial Candidate’, a report published by the Awaaz Network and Monitoring Group.

In it the author, LSE Emeritus professor Gautam Appa noted that the BJP’s claim of the so-called “clean chit” given to Modi by the Supreme Court is a misconception as the judicial process is still ongoing in India.


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Did UK help Indira Gandhi plan Operation Bluestar ?

All India | Edited by Prasad Sanyal | Updated: January 13, 2014

Did UK help Indira Gandhi plan Operation Bluestar, asks Labour MP

File photo: Indira Gandhi

New Delhi A law-maker from the Labour party  claims that he has seen documents that suggest Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s administration helped Indira Gandhi plan the storming of the Golden Temple in 1984, in which security forces entered the holy site to flush out militants.

Tom Watson, MP for West Bromwich East, told the BBC Asian network channel, that he has seen “top secret papers from Mrs Thatcher authorizing SAS (Special Air Services) to collude with the Indian government.”

He said the government appears to have “held back” some documents and must disclose more information. “This trying to hide what we did…not coming clean…would be a very great error,” he said.  (See full report on BBC)

“The documents seem to indicate Ms Thatcher knew about the sensitivity of this issue,” Mr Watson told NDTV.

“I am writing to the Foreign Secretary about this matter and will raise it in the House of Commons. I expect a full explanation,” the MP said on his website.

More than 1,000 people were killed in Operation Bluestar, the raid on Sikhism’s holiest shrine. Five months later, in retaliation, Mrs Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards.

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Workers face biggest fall in living standards since Victorian era


The number of public sector workers on low wages doubles to more than one million, with women and part-time staff disproportionately affected by squeeze on incomes

Monday 09 December 2013

The biggest drop in living standards since the Victorian age is seeing low and middle earners suffering an unprecedented squeeze on their incomes as austerity measures continue to bite, with women and part-time workers disproportionately affected, research reveals today.

More than five million  people are officially classified as low paid and an increasing number of public sector  workers are struggling to make ends meet, according to the New Economics Foundation (NEF) think-tank.

It warned: “Workers on low and middle incomes are experiencing the biggest decline in their living standards since reliable records began in the mid-19th century.”

The NEF has calculated that the public sector now employs one million low-wage workers – double the previous estimate – with health and social care staff, classroom assistants and council employees trapped on small earnings.

Sales assistants and retail workers make up the largest group of low-paid workers in the private sector, with large numbers also working as waiters, bar staff and cashiers.

The study blames the continuing drop in disposable incomes on pay freezes and below-inflation rises, leading to wages steadily lagging behind prices.

Separate research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation concluded yesterday that for the first time the number of working families living in poverty exceeds those without anyone in work. The cost of living has moved up the political agenda in recent months with Labour claiming that the average person is £1,600 worse off than when the Coalition Government took power in May 2010.

Ministers counter that economic recovery is finally under way, with employment levels growing steadily, and that they have taken steps to lower the cost of petrol and energy and to raise the income tax threshold. However, one in four local authority employees is now on low pay, which is defined as less than 60 per cent of the average national income – equivalent to £7.47 an hour or £13,600 a year.

Helen Kersley, a senior economist at the think-tank, said: “Up to now it was assumed low pay was confined to the margins of the public sector. But take into account the 500,000 low-wage workers employed by outsourced service providers and you can see the problem runs a lot deeper than that.”

As squeezed local councils award contracts to the cheapest providers, these workers are often even worse off than their counterparts employed directly by the public sector. “A care worker earns only £6.44 to £7.38 per hour in the private sector compared to £9 to £11 in the public sector,” the report adds.

Karen Jennings, assistant general-secretary of Unison, which commissioned the report, said: “Wages are being benchmarked against those in the worst parts of the private sector… the public sector needs to start proving that society benefits from decent wages.”

Frances O’Grady, the TUC General Secretary, said: “The Chancellor has revelled in his attacks on the living standards of those who educate and care for our families.”

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “Our welfare reforms are designed to further increase work incentives and improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities, with the [new benefits system] universal credit making three million households better off.”


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India’s caste campaigners win EU backing to end ‘apartheid’ conditions #goodnews

EU passes resolution against caste-based discrimination, as campaigners accuse India of failing to protect Dalit rights

MDG : Casts system in India : Dalits : Poverty and woman labour

India’s lowest castes, such as the Dalits, are often forced into dangerous work, despite a number of affirmative action initiatives. Photograph: Amar Singh/Alamy

Campaigners from south Asia have welcomed an EU resolution passed on Thursday against caste-based discrimination, which they hope will help to push the issue on to the agenda at trade talks between the EU and countries like Nepal, India and Sri Lanka.


The International Labour Organisation estimates that the overwhelming majority of bonded labour victims in south Asia are from lower castes, with forced and bonded labour particularly widespread in the agriculture, mining and garment production sectors. Some of the companies involved in these sectors supply products to multinationals.


Campaigner Manjula Pradeep, from the Indian rights organisation Navsarjan, says that, after working hard to raise awareness of discrimination against low-caste Hindus known as Dalits, finally seeing the issue discussed at such a high level feels like a reward. “When we started the process of lobbying the European parliament in 2007 we had to explain what [caste discrimination] was. Now we don’t have to say what it means to be a Dalit, so it’s a reward, but we still have to do a lot of work.”


Some countries in Asia have taken steps to tackle the issue; India has affirmative action programmes to support Dalits. Inbuilt prejudices, however, are preventing long-term change, Pradeep says. “When we were listening to the statements of the European parliament, I thought about my own members of parliament and I wonder if they are ready to speak on this issue. Very few are ready … they don’t want to address it at a larger level, most often these issues related to caste have never been addressed at a national level in our country.”


Caste systems are common in much of south-east Asia. Campaigners estimate 260 million people around the world are affected. Castes divide people into social groupings; those in the lowest castes are regarded as unclean and are often forced into unpleasant and dangerous work.

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Press Release- UK’s longstanding opposItion to #deathpenalty #abolishDP

Foreign Office Minister Baroness Warsi highlights the UK’s longstanding opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances.

Senior Foreign Office Minister Baroness Warsi said:

Today is World Day Against the Death Penalty 2013, an occasion to highlight the UK’s longstanding opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances. There have been positive developments over this past year, particularly at the United Nations last December where more states than ever before voted for a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty. However, there were also setbacks, including the resumption of executions in countries that had previously enjoyed lengthy periods without executions. The UK Government remains committed to working towards the worldwide abolition of the death penalty and will continue to make the case for abolition internationally, and to support those individuals and groups around the world who are campaigning locally for an end to the death penalty in their country.

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Narendra Modi, British invitation and universal jurisdiction

N. JAYARAM 16 August 2013, Open democracy

Some British MPs have invited an Indian politician widely accused of having committed crimes against humanity in his Gujarat state more than a decade ago. It is not a crisis but an opportunity: Universal Jurisdiction may be invoked to get moving abroad the wheels of justice, which have failed to catch up with him at home.

Narendra ModiDemotix/Bhaskar Mallick. All rights reserved.

Some British MPs have invited Narendra Modi, chief minister of India’s Gujarat state, to visit and address the House of Commons. The initiative appears to have come from Barry Gardiner, Labour MP for Brent North, home to a large number of people of Gujarati upper-caste Hindu origin. Some Conservative Party MPs too have added their support to the invitation.

The news is certain to divide people in India and Britain alike. Social networking sites have been abuzz with heated exchanges among Indians on the issue. In Britain too voices have been raised against the invitation.

Many Indians say Modi presided over an anti-Muslim pogrom in 2002 in which more than 2,000 people were killed. Genocidal slogans were openly aired, including calls for Muslim women to be raped, calls that seem to have been acted on in numerous instances. Although some of his associates have been convicted and sentenced for their hand in the events, Modi has thus far evaded any form of accountability, subverting attempts by courts at various levels to indict him for his role in stoking up the killings, rapes and other acts of violence. He has commandeered the services of many of India’s top lawyers, paying handsomely for their services. Massive monies have also been spent on public relations and Modi has emerged as the de facto prime ministerial candidate of his right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party – currently the principal opposition – ahead of general elections to be called latest by mid-2014.

For human rights groups, the prospect of Modi’s London visit is not a crisis but an opportunity. Should he take up the invitation, they could move courts for his arrest and trial under the principle of Universal Jurisdiction for crimes against humanity. Although Universal Jurisdiction was not invoked in the 1998 arrest of Chile’s former dictator Augusto Pinochet in London, it drew worldwide attentionto the principle. Judge Baltasar Garzon in Spain called for his arrest on the ground that some of the victims of human rights abuses in Chile after the 1973 coup were Spanish citizens. Britain’s Law Lords ruled that Pinochet could not cite diplomatic immunity as certain crimes were too serious for that international arrangement to be invoked.  Pinochet spent nearly a year and a half under mostly house arrest.

Margaret Thatcher, who was a cheerleader for Pinochet’s reign of terror and received his backing during the Falklands/Malvinas war against Argentina in 1982 in return, lobbied hard for his release. US President George W. Bush added his weight to the lobbying. In 2000, Home Secretary Jack Straw announced that Pinochet would be freed on health grounds. Protests from jurists and medical experts fell on deaf ears.

A little while after Pinochet’s return to Chile, justice began to catch up with him: courts were no longer inclined to respect the immunity he had gotten for himself from the legislature. Claims of health issues kept him from facing justice, however, and he died a free man in 2006. Chile has matured greatly in the interim. It is not unlikely that legal action against Modi abroad might jolt Indian courts too to go after him after him and others alleged to have committed crimes against humanity more robustly than they have done thus far.

Pinochet’s arrest and the debate over his fate made front-page news worldwide. It was one of the greatest episodes in international legal history. The words Universal Jurisdiction gained currency beyond the groves of academe. Given the prominent role in the Chilean coup of Henry Kissinger, former US Secretary of State and National Security Adviser, there is widespread speculation that he has difficulty making travel plans for fear of being slapped with a warrant like that by Judge Garzon.

In 2011, former US president George W. Bush was forced to call off a trip to Switzerland in view of threats of large-scale protests. Amnesty International had asked the Swiss authorities to investigate his role in torture. Amnesty was told the authorities had no plans to prosecute Bush. But there have been rumblings in other countries including Spain and Germany, with threats of investigations against leading US officials for torture and other crimes against humanity.

In 2005 a former Israeli army commander, Doron Almog, had to fly back from London without alighting from the aircraft after he was advised that some Muslim groups had planned to get him charged with crimes against humanity. In 2009, former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni cancelled a trip to Britain following reports that an arrest warrant was out for her role in alleged war crimesin Gaza. She was invited back by Foreign Secretary William Hague in 2011 after an amendment that prevents private individuals from seeking such arrests. The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 might make it difficult for private individuals to call for Modi’s arrest should he visit Britain. But nothing prevents foreign governments and judges from issuing warrants to be acted upon by the British authorities.

Modi is not the only Indian whose possible visits to Britain and elsewhere are the subject of controversy. Members of the Congress party, the leading group in the ruling coalition in New Delhi, who are accused of having incited the anti-Sikh pogrom in 1984 after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by two Sikh bodyguards, are similarly targeted. In 2009, former minister Jagdish Tytler, who is widely accused of provoked mob attacks on Sikhs, was dropped from a delegation that was to visit Britain following protests.

Meanwhile Modi continues to be denied a US visa because of his alleged role in the 2002 pogrom. Katrina Lantos Swett, vice chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, has said that in her view that policy should remain even though she has acknowledged that the State Department might have to take into consideration other issues such as trade and security.

India has not signed the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court in 2002. China, the United States and Israel are among a number of countries that have chosen to stay out. Thus far the ICC, which has 122 members, has only been able to net perpetrators of mass crimes in Africa. The idea that crimes against humanity such as those that occurred in New Delhi in 1984 or Gujarat in 2002 need to be investigated and punished has yet to catch on in India. But it is an idea whose time may yet come.



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UK Tells Sikh Delegation It Will Ask India To Commute Bhullar’s Death Sentence

LONDON – A British foreign office minister on Tuesday told Sikhs that UK will ask India to drop the death penalty against Davinderpal Singh Bhullar.

Hugo Swire — Britain’s minister for India in the foreign office — met Sikh representatives with Lord Indarjit Singh of Wimbledon and discussed the case of Bhullar whose appeal for his death sentence to be commuted was rejected by India’s Supreme Court on April 12.

They said, “If India executes Bhullar it will signal to the world that it is backward and prepared to eliminate all Sikh prisoners.”

Swire told the delegation that UK was against the death penalty in all circumstances. Swire said UK will monitor the case of Bhullar closely “as we will in all cases where the death penalty has been given as a sentence”.

He further said that UK will call on the Indian government


Open Letter

Open Letter to the President of India, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, the Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh, the Indian Home Minister, Mr Sushilkumar Shinde, and the President of the Indian National Congress party, Mrs Sonia Gandhi

In the matter of the immediate risk of execution of Professor Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar

The Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (“BHRC”) writes concerning the recent rejection by the Indian Government of the application for mercy plea by Professor Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar. We urge the Government to stay the execution of Professor Bhullar and commute the sentence of capital punishment.

Professor Bhullar was convicted in 1993 of involvement in the bombing of the All Indian Youth Congress in New Delhi, where 9 people died and 36 people were wounded. Having been deported from Germany in 1995 -a decision later controverted- he was tried, convicted and sentenced to death in 2001. The offences were drawn under the now repealed Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act 1985 (“TADA”). TADA was widely criticised for contravening India’s Constitution and international human rights law.

The charges against Professor Bhullar now are widely considered to be unsubstantiated; the evidence relied upon has been fundamentally discredited.

Specifically, the conviction was based solely upon his uncorroborated – and later retracted – “confession”. There was compelling evidence that the “confession” had been obtained both without access to a lawyer and following ill treatment amounting to torture. In such circumstances, the confession evidence is unreliable and unsafe.

Also, there was a complete failure by the prosecution to corroborate the “confession”. Although one hundred and thirty three witnesses were relied upon by the prosecution, not one of those witnesses actually identified Professor Bhullar. On the contrary, many expressly stated that the man seen at the scene was not Professor Bhullar.

Of further substantial concern is a report that the Public Prosecutor, who prosecuted this case during the Supreme Court appeal in 2002, has described the sentence and the subsequent imposition of the death penalty, as a ‘judicial error’.

On 12 April 2013, Professor Bhullar’s judicial review of his failed clemency petition to the President of India was dismissed by the Supreme Court of India. Subsequently, Professor Bhullar’s wife petitioned the Supreme Court for a stay in execution. This was rejected. Professor Bhullar now faces imminent execution.

The breaches of due process in Professor Bhullar’s case are fundamental and serious and so his continued detention is in breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). TADA, under which he was tried, convicted and sentenced, is incompatible with international human rights laws and conventions, particularly Articles 7, 10 and 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Articles 14 and 26 of the ICCPR. The trial proceedings themselves were in breach of the right to fair trial safeguards under international law and the few protections under TADA were not applied.

Further, it is of considerable note that the Supreme Court was spilt in its findings. Significantly, the Presiding Judge took the decision that Professor Bhullar’s conviction should be quashed on the ground of the unreliability of the “confession”.

It is normal procedure in capital cases in India that where there is a dissenting judgment the sentence is commuted to life imprisonment. Such a procedure is just and fair where a court is ruling on whether a person should lose his life. We have no information as to why this did not occur in this case.

A pressing factor, which urgently must be realised, is Professor Bhullar’s mental health. It has deteriorated since 1995 and, recently, he was diagnosed by a medical board, constituted by the Delhi government as suffering from mental illness. Other reports have described him as being psychotic, delusional and unable to make sense of his surroundings, suffering from hallucinations and severe depression. Professor Bhullar is entitled to instruct his own appropriately qualified medical expert and we urge the Government to allow this action. Until now, the justice system appears to have failed in adequately considering Professor Bhullar’s mental health. Belatedly, it appears to be recognising its importance.

Professor Bhullar’s mental health fundamentally impacts not only upon the lawfulness of upholding the death sentence but also upon his continued detention. Turning to Indian regulations, even the Tihar Jail manual states that a mentally ill person should not be executed. International law is clear that a person with Professor Bhullar’s mental state should not be sentenced to death. In 2005, the UN Commission on Human Rights urged all states that maintain the death penalty “not to impose the death penalty on a person suffering from any mental or intellectual disabilities or to execute any such person”.

The above facts – even in short form – demonstrate that there were serious procedural and evidential flaws in the trial. In any event, irrespective of whether the conviction is unsafe, the execution of an individual who is mentally unwell and incognisant of his own situation is contrary to international law. It amounts to cruel and inhumane treatment. It is unarguable that this case falls into the category of “the rarest of the rare”. Further, humanitarian grounds alone dictate that the death sentence should be, at the very least, commuted.

The BHRC urgently requests the President of India, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, the Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh, the Indian Home Minister, Sushilkumar Shinde, and the President of the Indian National Congress party, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, to make the necessary representations and subsequent order to stay this execution.

We respect that India is a rich source of impressive and just human rights jurisprudence. We hope that this is not simply legal history and urge that the opportunity to continue this legacy is taken in Professor Bhullar’s case.

Kirsty Brimelow QC
Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (BHRC)


  • #999; padding: 2px; display: block; border-radius: 2px; text-decoration: none;" href="" target="_blank">Motion against #deathpenalty of Prof. Bhullar tabled in UK Parliament
  • #999; padding: 2px; display: block; border-radius: 2px; text-decoration: none;" href="" target="_blank"> #India – Dead Sikhs, Dead Muslims, Dead Kashmiris, Dead Maoists, Dead Dalits, Dead tribals
  • #999; padding: 2px; display: block; border-radius: 2px; text-decoration: none;" href="" target="_blank">Press Release- India – Abolish Death Penalty-Indian Overseas Congress
  • #999; padding: 2px; display: block; border-radius: 2px; text-decoration: none;" href="" target="_blank">Capital Punishment: Dying Out but Still Killing #deathpenalty



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The woman who nearly died making your iPad #mustread

| Aditya Chakrabortty

Tian Yu worked more than 12 hours a day, six days a week. She had to skip meals to do overtime. Then she threw herself from a fourth-floor window

Aditya ChakraborttyMonday 5 August 2013, The Guardian Tian Yu Tian Yu tried to kill herself in 2010, as did 17 of her Foxconn colleagues. Photograph: University Research Group At around 8am on 17 March 2010, Tian Yu threw herself from the fourth floor of her factory dormitory in Shenzhen, southern China. For the past month, the teenager had worked on an assembly line churning out parts for Apple iPhones and iPads. At Foxconn’s Longhua facility, that is what the 400,000 employees do: produce the smartphones and tablets that are sold by Samsung or Sony or Dell and end up in British and American homes. But most famously of all, China’s biggest factory makes gadgets for Apple. Without its No 1 supplier, the Cupertino giant’s current riches would be unimaginable: in 2010, Longhua employees made 137,000 iPhones a day, or around 90 a minute. That same year, 18 workers – none older than 25 – attempted suicide at Foxconn facilities. Fourteen died. Tian Yu was one of the lucky ones: emerging from a 12-day coma, she was left with fractures to her spine and hips and paralysed from the waist down. She was 17. When news broke of the suicide spree, reporters battled to piece together what was wrong in Apple’s supply chain. Photos were printed of safety nets strung by the company under dorm windows; interviews with workers revealed just how bad conditions were. Some quibbled over how unusual the Foxconn deaths were, arguing that they were in line with China’s high rate of self-killing. However conscience-soothing that claim was in both Shenzhen and California, it overlooked how those who take their own lives are often elderly or women in villages, rather than youngsters who have just moved to cities to seek their fortunes. For the three years since, that’s the spot where the debate has been paused. In all the talk of corporate social responsibility and activists’ counter-claims that the producers of iPads and iPhones are still sweating in “labour camp” conditions, you hardly ever hear those who actually work at Foxconn speak at length and in their own terms. People such as Tian Yu. Yu was interviewed over three years by Jenny Chan and Sacom, a Hong Kong-based group of rights campaigners. From her hospital recuperation in Shenzhen to her return to her family’s village, Chan and her colleagues kept in touch throughout and have published the interviews in the latest issue of an academic journal called New Technology, Work and Employment. The result is a rare and revealing insight into how big electronics companies now rely on what is effectively a human battery-farming system: employing young, poor migrants from the Chinese countryside, cramming them into vast workhouses and crowded dorms, then spitting out the ones who struggle to keep up. Yu fits the profile to a T. In February 2010, she left her village in central China in order to earn money to support an impoverished family. As a leaving gift, her father scraped together about ¥500 (just over £50) and a secondhand mobile so she could call home. After a journey of nearly 700 miles, she was taken on at Foxconn. The employee handbook urged: “Hurry towards your finest dreams, pursue a magnificent life.” But Yu doesn’t remember her daily routine as particularly magnificent. Managers would begin shifts by asking workers: “How are you?” Staff were forced to reply: “Good! Very good! Very, very good!” After that, silence was enforced. She worked more than 12 hours each day, six days a week. She was compelled to attend early work meetings for no pay, and to skip meals to do overtime. Toilet breaks were restricted; mistakes earned you a shouting-at. And yet there was no training. In her first month, Yu had to work two seven-day weeks back to back. Foreign reporters who visit Longhua campus are shown its Olympic-sized swimming pools and shops, but she was too exhausted to do anything but sleep. She was swapped between day and night shifts and kept in an eight-person dormitory where she barely knew the names of her fellow sleepers. Stranded in a city far from her family, unable to make friends or even get a decent night’s sleep, Yu finally broke when bosses didn’t pay her for the month’s labour because of some administrative foul-up. In desperation, she hurled herself out of a window. She was owed £140 in basic pay and overtime, or around a quarter of a new iPhone 5. Yu’s experience flies in the face of Foxconn’s own codes, let alone Apple’s. Yet it is surely the inevitable fallout of a system in which Foxconn makes a wafer-thin margin on the goods it produces for Apple, and so is forced to squeeze workers ever harder. The suicide spate prompted Apple CEO Tim Cook to call on Foxconn to improve working conditions. But there is no record of him providing any money to do so, or even relaxing the draconian contractual conditions imposed on Foxconn. Asked about it yesterday, Apple’s press office said it did not discuss such matters and directed me to the company’s latestSupplier Responsibility report. A glossy thing, it opens with “what we do to empower workers” and describes how staff can study for degrees. After her suicide attempt, Yu received a one-off “humanitarian payment” of ¥180,000 (£18,000) to help her go home. According to her father: “It was as if they were buying and selling a thing.” Last year, Tim Cook received wages of $4m – it was a big drop on the package he took in 2011.


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